General election campaigning begins as MPs back June poll.
Well, I doubt that many people saw this one coming – another election so soon, indeed far sooner than expected. The stated reason, and therefore not the actual one, was that opposition parties (and others) are in danger of slowing or stopping the Brexit process and that the PM needs a further mandate from the people to shut them up and get on with her job of breaking us away from Europe. Yet the Conservatives have a majority in Parliament – OK it’s only a small one of 17 seats – so what she really means is that she doesn’t have the confidence to get her measures through over opposition in her own party which would be, at best, rather embarrassing for her in any future negotiations. So, a General Election…. Or as I (and others) are already calling it: Referendum 2.
As I called the last result with a fair degree of accuracy (and still regret not putting a bet on) I’ll see if I can predict the result of June 8ths polling. Here goes:
I think that it’s highly likely (75% plus) that the Conservatives will win. The Labour Party is still in far too much of a mess and will probably quickly descend into in-fighting during the next 6-7 weeks of campaigning. Their prospect of winning is slim especially when they’re so far behind in the polls. The Liberal Democrats, reduced to a mere 9 seats after the last election haven’t a hope of contesting things but, if they’re very lucky, be able to form a Coalition with someone but who would trust them? Now the question is ‘win by how much?’ Teresa May’s attempt to bolster her support is risky. She’s nailed her Brexit colours to the election mast and is essentially saying that if you want Brexit (and presumably Hard Brexit) you vote Tory. This will naturally alienate quite a lot of people – approximately 48% to be exact. Now the 48% are naturally spread across the political spectrum so their effect will be somewhat minimised. I can’t see a Tory Remainer voting Labour but they might vote Lib Dem on this one occasion. I think that the Liberals will pick up quite a few votes that way. The SNP safely in Scotland can only take a single seat from the Conservatives and will probably move Heaven and Earth to make that happen. Labour will likely lose seats but, I’m guessing, not as many as the Tories expect or hope to gain. I doubt if UKIP will gain any seats (or if they do it’ll be a maximum of 1 or 2 and anything they take will probably be from the Tories rather than anyone else. So, circling back to the original question – how well will the Conservatives do? I’m betting not nearly as much as they want or need. I’m guessing that their present majority of 17 will increase to somewhere between 25-50. If it’s at the lower end there will be some serious rumbles in the Party. If it’s more towards the top the PM should be able to ride out the storm much better. Of course the Nightmare Scenario is if the majority actually drops or (unlikely as it seems) the Tories lose. If that happens the Tories will go into a feeding frenzy and start tearing chunks out of each other – or at least we can hope so.
What about Labour? I don’t think they’ll do as badly as some people think. They still have quite a lot of core believers out there and Corbyn is still very popular at the grass roots level. The upcoming election will hurt them but I doubt if they’ll lose more than 30 seats, 40 tops. I doubt if very many of those (10-15 maybe) with go Tory Blue. The Lib Dems have an opportunity here and will probably take it as the only Party to actively oppose Brexit. From their meagre 9 seats, and despite a lot of mistrust and, to be honest, downright disgust at their previous behaviour (including from yours truly) I’m estimating that when the dust is settled they’ll have at least 15 and if they’re lucky maybe 20 MP’s in the new Parliament. I think the SNP might lose a seat or two (possibly) but I think they might be able to make a clean sweep and be the only political party in Scotland. A LOT of pressure is going to be applied to the 3 seats that they don’t have! The General Election south of the border will be about Brexit. North of the border it’ll be about Independence and staying in the EU.
One thing for certain is that the next 6-7 weeks will reopen old wounds that have hardly started to heal after the Referendum and the debates become very heated indeed. This is, of course, when a tired and aggravated politician says or does something that changes the minds of thousands and wins, or more likely loses, the election for someone. I think that this is much more likely to be a Tory gaff than anyone else’s as it’s their election to lose rather than others to win. After all the Tories have Boris on their side to say nothing of Michael Gove. But I think the real uncertainty about the whole thing – and it’s nowhere near a done deal – is the inevitable Brexit Factor. Now the vote was blindingly close last time. In the year since that vote a lot of younger voters have been added to the electoral roll and a fair few older voters have left it. This will change the dynamic as younger voters tend to vote Left and voted much more to Remain than older voters. Then there’s the opportunity for all those who didn’t cast their votes last time in June 2016 to do so in June 2017. That could, if it happens, have a significant impact.
Over all I think that the Tories will win but not in the way they want or need. I actually don’t think that June 8th will solve anything fundamental and may make things rather worse. The risk of a hung Parliament is a real one with all the consequences of that on the Article 50 process and there is even a small risk that, if things go badly and public opinion shifts that the Government could fall. If a new Government forms under the impression that they have a mandate to stop the Brexit process then things get very, very interesting indeed! But that’ll probably only happen in my dreams. I’m certainly not holding my breath here! Right – now I need to sort out my bets and put a tenner on…..